Geri-Antics: Thrive don’t survive

Published 1:30 pm Tuesday, July 25, 2023

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By Anne Carmichael


Someone commented recently, “Oh, he’ll survive.” To me, that statement sounded neither hopeful nor positive; it lacked compassion, empathy and basic human kindness. I was not reassured.

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The comment struck me the wrong way because I know from personal experience that there is a huge difference between surviving and living.

Actually, from my perspective, the only likeness in the two words is not representative of their definitions. It’s simply the fact that both words end in “ing.” The “ing” suffix indicates a state of existence of being. I am going. I am doing. I am.

Surviving indicates a strength of fortitude.

The TV series “Survivor” pits contestants against each other in a quasi-reality where they are tasked to keep breathing, dependent on only their wits, education culled from life experience and ingenuity.

Surviving means, simply put, that one has overcome some life-altering or life-threatening challenge.

Perhaps you have overcome a life-threatening illness such as cancer. Or maybe you’ve survived a serious accident and have had to learn to cope with losing a limb or bodily function. You have dealt with adversity and you have survived.

Perhaps the gauntlet that’s been put in your path was not physical. The mental and emotional roadblocks, whether a congenital anomaly or resulting from a life experience with which you are forced to cope daily, are obstacles you may have survived.

Living with the aftermath of combat, whether during service to your country or perpetrated upon you during an assault or other crime committed against you, are involuntary events that you must continue to battle in your mind to survive.

Depression resulting from a hormonal imbalance or losing a loved one may mean you need therapy and medication to survive.

I surmise then that surviving is not truly “living.” You’re coping. You’re dealing. You’re functioning to the best of your ability with the hand you’ve been given.

No, living is far better than just surviving. When you are truly living, you are maximizing your time on the planet, making every day, every hour and every moment counts and enjoying doing it.

When you wake up in the morning and feel joy and excitement anticipating what the day will bring, that is living.

When you look forward to going to your place of business and refer to what you do as a career rather than a job or work that’s living.

If a long-range plan or adventure that may be months or even years down the line gives you pleasure, just thinking about what you’ll do and where you’ll go brings a smile to your face and a pleasant dream to your slumber, that’s living.

The birth of a child or grandchild swells your heart with pride; the soft purr of a cat resting in your lap or the soulful eyes of a dog laying its head on your arm; the taste and aroma of a favorite food prepared with loving hands by someone near and dear to you; quiet reflection in nature these are the sensory enhancements that constitute life.

Survival requires that one possess the will to live both literally and metaphorically. You must be resilient in the face of adversity, but once you overcome adversity, you only begin to thrive.

Modern medical advances and technology have undoubtedly saved innumerable lives; however, it has also forced countless families to define living and surviving on a personal level. They are called upon to make impossible decisions when faced with a loved one whose physical existence suddenly depends on a machine. Science has little more than an educated guess as to whether the artificial beating of a heart, the expansion and deflation of apparatus akin to an accordion that simulates breathing, and most significantly, the waves (or lack of) electrical conduction in the brain that equal human existence on any celestial or terrestrial plane whatsoever.

If scientific evidence cannot determine definitively at what point the mind ceases to be cognoscente of the world and its inhabitants as we know them, then who are we to decide on someone else’s behalf when to end their life? Indubitably a responsibility no one would ever seek.

While not every aspect of life is within our control, we are the architect of our reality. By that, I mean that you get to choose your perception of everything that life brings to you good or bad. You attract what life brings to you in many ways, simply by altering and orchestrating your perception.

You’ve probably heard the quote, “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” It’s certainly not always easy to find the silver lining when life deals you a devastating blow, but rather to consciously look for just one minor upside to the reality, even if that is merely to tell yourself, “Well, at least (a (insert a worst-case scenario) didn’t happen.” In other words, find an attitude of gratitude.

I am certainly no expert on life, nor do I have the authority to bestow wisdom, but these certainties I know and share with you here and now:

1. You won’t always be happy, but who wants rainbows flying out of their nose anyway?

2. Life isn’t fair, but how you perceive the inequities can either help you cope with them or make you sad and bitter. Find just one positive thing to help you hang on until it passes and it will pass.

3. You are 100% powerless to control what happens in the world around you. You have absolute control over how you perceive what happens and how you allow it to affect you.

4. You are the master of your happiness. Be true to yourself.

5. Don’t just survive; thrive.